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Outdoor cooking: Eat the nature #1

Repost from Nordisk GO magazine 2017

A gastronomic experience in the wild

By Jurgen Bender

 

Most who follow gastronomic trends, have quite probably heard about outdoor cooking – and maybe even tried it. It is a somewhat unusual term meaning cooking food outdoors and it is therefore open to a rather broad interpretation.

 

Outdoor cooking as a trend has evolved from the flowering Nordic kitchen with the use of local, seasonal ingredients. Outdoor cooking is all about creating from scratch, taking time and getting back to basics – a trend in stark contrast to busy everyday life where time is a luxury and where fast and convenient food too often is the answer to the stressed consumer’s needs. Combined with the tranquility and contact with nature, these are probably the main reasons for the widespread success of the phenomenon outdoor cooking.

Outdoor cooking is also about opening your eyes to the numerous edible herbs, fruits and mushrooms to be found in nature all around us. Making slow food over an open fire is basically the simplest way of cooking like in – it takes the time it takes. No rush and no short cuts.

 

Not so long ago outdoor cooking was a quite different matter. To most people outdoor cooking meant the summer barbeque – unless you were forced to cook in the wild. Most often you would then out of necessity use a gas or spirit burner and cook costly freeze-dried food.

In the early 90’ies I was a professional soldier teaching the soldiers in my unit how to survive in nature using only what can be found or caught. I brought this knowledge with me into civilian life and combined it with elements from the world of gastronomy. This led to the kind of cooking I am introducing here and which has nothing to do with surviving in the wild. It’s basically all about having a gastronomic experience in nature, combining elements from nature with a few from home.

A trip to the coast

This dish is based on ingredients found along the coast, like beach crabs and mussels. Ideally herbs from the natural surroundings should be used, but it of course depends on time and patience – and your knowledge about which herbs are edible. Here I have used sea buckthorn and wild thyme, but if needed ordinary thyme and lemon can be used…

The berries of sea buckthorn are orange and grows near the coast.

Beach crabs are easily caught from a jetty using a mussel on a string.

Beach crab bisque with mussels and wild herbs

You need this (for 4 people):

• 10-12 beach crabs

• 20-22 mussels

• sea buckthorn, a little handful (can be replaced with lemon)

• rosehip, a little handful (can be replaced with cherry tomatoes)

• 1 onion

• wild thyme, one large stalk

• 0,5 l water

• sea sandwort, 4-5 stalks (can be omitted)

• 0,5 dl cream for topping (can be omitted)

• salt and pepper

• olive oil for frying

1.

Quickly split the beach crabs down the middle with a knife and keep all innards as this gives the flavour (they don’t contain much meat).

2.

Clean the mussels and remove those who do not open (they are dead).

3.

Halve and stone the rosehip berries and cut the onion in pieces.

4.

Place a large pot (preferably cast iron) over the fire on a

griddle or tripod and add a little oil.

 

When hot fry the onion until soft.

5.

Add the crabs and fry them thoroughly.

Add the water and bring it to the boil.

6.

Add the mussels and the washed, chopped herbs and berries.

Let the soup simmer gently for 10-12 minutes and remove and discard all mussels that have not opened.

7.

Add the cream and bring the soup to the boil.

Taste with salt and pepper.

Fire-baked bread

• 600 g flour

• 40-50 g wholemeal flour

• 300-350 cl water

• 10-15 g yeast

• 1 tsp salt

• 1 tsp sugar

 

1. Mix water, salt, sugar and yeast thoroughly together

2. Add the flour a little at a time and knead it well for about half an hour for it to become glutinous

3. Set the dough to rise in a cool place for 10-12 hours

4. Roll the dough into a ball and allow it to settle a little – e.g. in a bowl where you can keep it for the trip

5. Light the fire and place the dough in a cast iron pot with a lid over the fire

6. Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes

7. When finished it should slide out of the pot. You can knock on the underside of the bread and if it makes a hollow sound, the bread is ready.